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UN database for Gaza aid may give Israel

targets to attack secret memo

A Palestinian woman walks between the ruins of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza
12 August 2014.

Ali Abunimah-13 January 2016

Basel YazouriActiveStills

The UN was warned that its database of potential aid recipients in Gaza could provide Israel
with targets for future attacks, a document obtained by The Electronic Intifada reveals.

Diplomats and UN officials were also warned that plans for rebuilding Gaza after it was
attacked by Israel in 2014 violated international law.
The UN-backed Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is illegal and violates the very right
to life of the Palestinian people, according to a confidential legal opinion by a law professor
who analyzed the mechanism for a major aid agency that works closely with the UN.
The Electronic Intifada is publishing the full text of the GRM for the first time, along with the
legal opinion. Both documents are below.
Recall that in 2014, The Electronic Intifada revealed that the GRM, the UN-brokered
agreement that was supposedly going to facilitate reconstruction, would effectively reinforce
Israels control over Gaza.
But the UN, the Palestinian Authority and Israel have kept the actual text of the GRM
secret, despite demands for transparency from Palestinians whose ability to rebuild their
lives has remained hostage to its suffocating restrictions.
The expert who wrote the legal opinion, the University of Nottinghams Professor Nigel White,
warned that the UN was becoming an active participant in Israels crimes, including enforcing
the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2007.
White, co-director of the Nottingham International Law and Security Centre, is considered
one of the worlds leading experts on United Nations law.
The UN, by becoming party to the GRM, is itself contributing to the maintenance of the
blockade and, therefore, is committing as well as aiding and assisting violations of
international law, White states.
If the UN persists in aiding and assisting the implementation of the GRM it will be jointly
(with the GoI [Government of Israel]) responsible for the injuries and losses caused to the
people of Gaza, White adds.
White warns that the database of personal details of Palestinians in Gaza created under the
terms of the GRM violates the right to life because of potential misuse of the database by
the GoI [Government of Israel] for the identification of targets.

The legal opinion was commissioned by the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law
Resource Center, which is funded by the Swedish and Swiss governments. It is part of
Diakonia, a major Swedish development organization that receives funding from the Swedish
government, the EU and the UN.
The legal opinion was shared with diplomats and international agencies. But unlike other
expert opinionscommissioned by Diakonia, the organization has not published Whites
Diakonia did not respond to an email requesting comment.
The stark and shocking nature of the legal advice might explain why the GRM has been kept
secret from its supposed beneficiaries. Had the legal opinion been published it would have
seriously undermined UN assurances and claims about the GRM.

Dictated by Israel
In the summer of 2014, Israels assault on Gaza killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.
The Israeli invasion and bombardment destroyed or severely damaged 24,000 homes and
caused lesser damage to another 146,000, according to the UN monitoring group OCHA.
After the 26 August 2014 ceasefire, Robert Serry, then UN special coordinator for the Middle
East peace process (UNSCO), negotiated the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority.
The deal was effectively dictated by Israel according to its security requirements and then
given a stamp of approval by the UN and the PA.
Under the guise of reconstruction, the UN monitors and gathers detailed private information
about Palestinian households in a database accessible to Israel, which has a veto over who is
eligible to sell and receive building materials.
But despite promises that the deal would at least allow Palestinians made homeless by Israeli
bombing to quickly rebuild, the mechanism has failed.
The GRM placed enormous obstacles in the way of reconstruction such that by November
2015 the UN had only managed to assist the reconstruction of a single totally destroyed house

in Gaza.
Building supplies are doled out based on Israeli approval, under extreme security and in such
small quantities that they are often more valuable to desperate Gaza families to sell on the
black market than for any use in reconstruction.
The GRM continues to give Israel a stranglehold on Gazas economy.

Wrongful acts
In a 21-page analysis marked confidential and dated 26 January 2015, Nigel White examines
the legal basis of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism and concludes that the document
amounts to an agreement or treaty that must be subject to the norms of international law.
The GRM, White states, is an unbalanced exchange of rights and duties, with the PA and
the UN having a number of duties, while the GoI [Government of Israel] has a number of very
wide rights and very few obligations.
According to White, UNSCO went far beyond its legal mandate and may have breached the
UN Charter by making the agreement.
White suggests that the GRM would be void if it violates international law, or was reached
as a result of it being procured by the threat or use of force or by other forms of coercion a
reference to warnings that Israel could resume its military action against Gaza.
As well as issues of legality under UN and treaty law, White writes, there is the question of
whether, by incorporating processes that are in violation of Israels obligations under
international humanitarian and human rights law, the UN, by becoming a party to the GRM
and agreeing to oversee these processes is implicated in any wrongful acts.
There is strong evidence of the connection between the GRM and actual and potential
violations of core human rights, White states.
By signing the agreement, the UN and PA have approved the continuation of Israels blockade
on Gaza, which White describes as illegal.
But despite this, the UN remains committed to the deal.

Rosy gloss
UNSCO refused to confirm or deny that it had seen Nigel Whites paper.
Instead of answering a direct question as to whether Serry, or his successor as special
coordinator Nickolay Mladenov, had seen the legal advice commissioned by Diakonia, UNSCO
sent The Electronic Intifada a 350-word statement defending the GRM and bemoaning the
shortfall of donor funding for Gaza reconstruction.
Nonetheless, UNSCO put a rosy gloss on the GRM, asserting that it has enabled some
100,000 families to repair their homes, while some 4,500 families are in the process of
reconstructing their fully demolished dwellings.
Asked why it had not published the text of the GRM itself, UNSCO referred The Electronic
Intifada to the relevant governmental authorities as we are not in a position to disclose the
text unilaterally without the consent of both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian
The GRM is a temporary arrangement, UNSCO asserted, It is not and can never be
considered as a substitute for the lifting of the closures on Gaza.
But in the absence of any meaningful pressure on Israel to lift the siege, or consequences for
its refusal to do so, the GRM is likely to become as temporary as Israels occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip that has lasted for almost 50 years.
Meanwhile, almost 100,000 Palestinians whose homes were destroyed or severely
damaged remain in temporary shelter.
Little did they know that while claiming to be helping, UN officials had made an illegal deal
that has only prolonged their suffering and extended Israels impunity and control.
It may even put their lives in danger in the event of future Israeli attacks.
Those involved, including of course the Palestinian Authority, have tried to evade
accountability by concealing the GRM behind a wall of secrecy.
With the publication of these documents, that secrecy has now ended and those complicit in

this deal must answer for what they have done.